Children sing with Molly on her escapades

21st November 2003 at 00:00
The sing-along chant "I'm Molly Whuppie and you can't scare me, I'm Molly Whuppie, hee, hee, hee" stays with you long after the stage performance of Molly Whuppie is over.

The song is one of the charms of the show, which aims to keep children between the ages of three and seven entertained for an hour. That is a difficult task but one which is successfully achieved by Wee Stories Theatre's balanced mixture of storytelling, drama and traditional songs.

Earlier this month, school groups and other children from Glasgow and the surrounding area were invited to see Molly Whuppie for only pound;1. It was staged five times during the city's annual Inspiration arts festival, giving a potential 750 children the chance to see the show, which is rooted in a Scots folk tale.

It is the final production of the Wee Stories Early Years Project, which was set up three years ago with funding from the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery fund. The project, the first if its kind in Scotland, has toured five productions to theatres, community venues, schools and nurseries and has been enjoyed by children, parents and critics alike. Most of the performances have sold out and Wee Stories Theatre estimates that by the end of the year - extra tour dates for Molly Whuppie have been announced - more than 50,000 people will have seen the shows.

One of the organisers of the Inspiration festival, Maggie Singleton, Glasgow City Council's children and young people's officer, was keen to have Molly Whuppie on the programme because of its previous success.

"It was such a success two years ago when we had it in the festival that I thought it was a great one to bring back," she says. "Wee Stories are very popular and they have no problem getting big audiences in Glasgow. Up to 150 children can see the show at one time and the theatre is often full."

It featured alongside other popular shows including the Flying Gorillas, Theatre sans Fronti res, Shona Reppe's puppet show Spend a Penny and Lifeboat by Catherine Wheels Theatre.

The annual festival, which is a mixture of workshops and performances, aims to give children the experience of working together in a creative environment. "We are trying to include a range of things that offer more involvement," says Mrs Singleton.

Molly Whuppie certainly does encourage audience participation. Children happily join in with Molly's chants and songs: they sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to make the giant fall to sleep, wave their arms as they pretend to be trees and willingly teach the giant how to shout in a scary manner.

Most amazingly, Molly Whuppie is brought to life by a cast of only two.

Director Virginia Radcliffe plays the protagonist Molly and Deborah Arnott portrays all of the other characters. She is Molly's sister Ella, their mother, the mean old king Boris and, with added big clumpy feet, a slow, deep voice and dopey facial expressions, she turns herself into Ninian, the giant. They work well together and are loved by their audience.

It will be a shame if the duo do not carry on working together. However, Ms Radcliffe and designer Catherine Lindow are hoping to launch their new theatre company for children, LicketySpit, with a new show soon.

Molly Whuppie, Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, December 6-24, tel 0131 228 1404www.weestoriestheatre.orgLicketySpit is looking for letters of support from anyone who would like the work to continue. Send letters to Wee Stories Theatre, 151 Bellevue Street, Edinburgh, EH7 4BX

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